15
Jun

Blog and Bake – Visiting King Arthur Flour

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by Amber on June 15, 2011

I have been to the land of King Arthur. I visited Avalon and Camelot, and saw Excalibur from afar. I walked its hallowed halls, baked in its beautiful wood burning oven, and even broke bread with its residents.

At this point, you’re thinking to yourself – Amber’s had one too many boozy Margarita Bars. But I promise – I went to this magical place. It really exists!

Last week I attended King Arthur Flour’s first ever blogging event, Blog & Bake. I have never been more excited to be a food blogger. I mean, the title of this blog is Bluebonnets and Brownies – it’s no secret that I love to bake.

But I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret – I’ve had major pie crust and yeast baking anxiety for years. I just knew, if anyone could cure me of these afflictions, it was the talented baking instructors at King Arthur’s Baking Education Center (which happens to be known internally as Camelot).

And you know what? I was right. For two solid days, we baked. And baked. And baked some more. We jumped right in – first up was two loaves of bread: one sandwich, one braided, from the same yeast-including recipe. I thought to myself, “Here. We. Go!” and said a silent prayer to the yeast Gods that I could do this.

Baking instructor Robyn Sargent’s calm and steady instruction put me at ease instantly. Before I knew it, I had kneaded two loaves of bread, by hand, and then turned one of them into a braided loaf. Amazing! Magical! (It *is* the land of Merlin, after all.)













Next we moved on to scones, which my partner in crime, Casey, and I, ended up terming the Scones of Doom. Seriously – this is one quick bread that she and I have each made individually at least 3 dozen times – but together, we were a calamity. Each of us throwing ingredients into the bowl, suddenly there was buttermilk before there was butter cut in, then half way through our final stir, we realized neither one of us had ever added the sugar! Let this be a lesson learned, folks – over confidence CAN defeat you before you start.

In the end, the scones’ texture wasn’t bad at all, but there were pockets of overly sweet dough in some spots, and flat out savory biscuit in other. Pretty funny stuff. I hope Casey doesn’t mind my letting the cat out of the bag on this one, but the story had to be told.

Over the rest of the day and the next, we made a Poolish, or pre-ferment, to add flavor to our pizza dough for lunch the next day, a butter pie crust for savory Tomato Pie, a sweet sugar butter crust for a strawberry-rhubarb tart, and most importantly, lots and lots of friends.

I know these two days were supposed to be about the flour, the baking, the technique – but I came away from Blog & Bake with so many new favorite people. The people who make up King Arthur: MJ, PJ, Robyn, Susan Miller, Allison, Terry, Michelle, Susan Reid and many many more, could not have been more welcoming, more gracious, more lovely.

My fellow bloggers and food writers: Maryellen, Kelsey, Casey, Fiona, Donna, Glenda, Corin, Jean, Jennifer and Aimee were each immediately friendly and ready with laughs and shared anxieties over – what else – pie crust!

And meeting Sara Moulton, well – talk about intimidating. Except that she’s as tiny and beautiful as Tinker Bell, and just as delightful. Her no-nonsense ‘let’s have fun!’ approach to food put everyone at ease, as did her eagerness to learn from the KAF instructors as much as the rest of us. She said it best – there’s cooking and there’s baking, and their processes are entirely different. We can always learn more.


Casey and Aimee being too cute for words!


Donna adds water to our pizza dough


Instructor Michelle stokes the flames of the wood burning oven we cooked our pizzas in.


That is one gorgeous pizza. I think it tasted better because every inch of it was made in Vermont, from the dough (by us) to the cheese, basil, and sauce.


The great news is I returned from Norwich, Vermont with a renewed excitement over baking and blogging. I’m excited to make more comprehensive baking recipes. A whole new world of baking ideas have opened up to me (and you) with the chasing away of my fears. I’m hoping, if you too suffer pie crust or yeast baking anxiety, I can help!

Tomorrow I’ll share with you the recipe for Savory Tomato Pie. Think pizza meets quiche. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and OH so delicious! I hope you’ll be back to check it out, because I’m going to teach you King Arthur Flour’s tricks to a good pie crust too, as well as why King Arthur Flour is the best flour to bake with (in my opinion).

I hope you’ll take the time to visit King Arthur’s site to learn about this wonderful, employee owned, passionate company, and also visit my fellow Blog & Bake attendees:


Maryellen Apelquist
Weathersfield, VT
Love & Scraps
Recipes, Rantings and Ravings from a Vermont Kitchen

Kelsey Banfield
Fairfield, CT
The Naptime Chef
Fitting great food into family life

Casey Barber
Clifton, NJ
Good. Food. Stories.
A chronicle of delicious conversations

Fiona Coxe
Boston, MA
A Boston Food Diary

Donna Currie
Longmont, CO
Cookistry

Glenda Embree
Seward, NE
Busy-at-Home
Living abundantly on a frugal budget.

Corin Hirsch
Burlington, VT
Seven Days
Vermont’s Independent Voice

Jean Kerr
Kittery Point, ME
Northeast Flavor
for all things delicious!

Jennifer Leal
Westerly, RI
Savoring the Thyme

Aimee Seavey
Boston, MA
The Apron Archives
vintage traditions in today’s homes and kitchens

See you tomorrow!

 

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{ 24 comments }

Andrea June 15, 2011 at 6:02 PM

The pizza looks wonderful!!

Lil @ sweetsbysillianah June 15, 2011 at 6:07 PM

hey amber, how did you hear about Blog & Bake? sounds like an amazing time… i’d love to go next year if it’s open to the public.

btw, i had the same anxiety about baking with yeast but recently overcame it – it’s awesome, isnt it? not sure why i was so afraid before… =P

Aimee @ Simple Bites June 15, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Yay!! I knew you were looking forward to this. I’m sorry to have missed it, but Mexico was worth it. :)

That pizza looks IN.sane.

What a fun group of ladies, too! I had a blast hanging with Kelsey and Jennifer at BlogHerFood. And another Aimee? Who knew? ;)

Aimee June 15, 2011 at 7:15 PM

Wonderful recap, Amber! And beautiful photos! I (of course) love the one of me and Casey. Glad someone captured that one moment when I let my guard down – hah! So glad I got to meet you chat about life and blogging. Hope our paths cross again soon!

PS…Hi Aimee! Our name is awesome!!

Amber June 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM

I LOVE that photo so much!

JulieD June 15, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Looked like a blast, so cool for you! I have the same pie crust anxiety. *sigh

Amber June 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM

We’ll work on it together, Julie. It was SUCH a blast.

DessertForTwo June 15, 2011 at 7:32 PM

Looks like it was so much fun!

P.S. Small typo: do you mean Sara MoulTon? The former magazine editor?

Amber June 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM

Yes I did, thank you. Silly autocorrect changed it!

Amber June 15, 2011 at 7:42 PM

Andrea, it was so great! I even bought a pizza stone at King Arthur Flour’s store because I can’t face never making pizza like that again.

Amber June 15, 2011 at 7:43 PM

Lil, I was invited directly by King Arthur Flour. No idea how they heard of me. But you can take classes at their Baking Education Center at any time. I recommend signing up a few months in advance though, because they fill up fast. It’s about a 5 hour drive from NYC.

Amber June 15, 2011 at 7:45 PM

I don’t blame you for going to Mexico, Aimee! The other Aimee is great – even though she doesn’t say her name the same way ;)

Rachel - A Southern Fairytale June 15, 2011 at 7:48 PM

TOO fun!!!!! I’ve never made any bread, ever! and I only make pizza dough with my dad for the same reasons!

Amber June 15, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Rachel, it’s so much easier than you think. The folks at KAF really break it down to the science that it is, but make it much less scary!

sweetsugarbelle June 15, 2011 at 9:10 PM

I would have LOVED to do this! I want to learn more about flour and all the things that make it do what it does consistently! What a FUN trip!!!

Jennifer (Savor) June 15, 2011 at 9:20 PM

LOVED spending time with you sharing fun stories and getting to know you. Thank You for your ears, brillance and awesome cookies! XO, jen

JenniferA June 16, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Wow, what an amazing experience. Your pictures are fabulous & I can’t wait for this recipe.

Susan Reid June 16, 2011 at 9:10 AM

Amber: as a former Jersey girl, I can say I’ve never enjoyed meeting a Texan more :-)!
Susan Reid

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. June 16, 2011 at 9:39 AM

I think the pictures when people let their guard down are always the BEST ones! Look how much fun we were having!

And I will totally cop to every bit of that scones story. We were a mess, but they ended up ok… especially when I smeared them with copious amounts of APPLE CIDER JELLY (yesss) the next morning. You’re so right about that stuff. Addicted.

Jess June 16, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Yam, Yam and Yam!!!!!!!!!!!! waiting for tomorrow to get the recipe for Savory Tomato Pie!!! sounds delicious!!!
Thanks for sharing!!
Jess from Best Long Term Options

Tracy June 16, 2011 at 12:21 PM

I am just looking at your photos and sighing happily over here, because this looks like it was so much fun! If I ever get the chance to go I will do everything I can to take it, because this looks like heaven. I’ll be waiting on that tomato pie recipe…can’t wait to try it!!

Jen Schall June 16, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Sounds like a simply amazing trip… Loved reading your take on it! I’ve always wanted to visit KAF, so it was fun living vicariously through your photos and stories!

Allison@KingArthurFlour June 16, 2011 at 1:19 PM

I love the scones story. I make silly mistakes like that more often than I care to admit… ;-) So glad you have new confidence to bring to your baking! Can’t wait to see how you use it!

jennie w. June 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM

No Texas bloggers? Whaaat?

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